Volodia ADD


Album Review: Volodia - Pour Toujours


by Gardy Stein

Album Review: Volodia - Pour Toujours

Is it just my impression or is, for some reason, Francophone Reggae more present this year than ever before? After Lidiop, Dub Inc and Tiken Jah Fakoly, another artist now adds his release to this catalogue extraordinaire of Francophone music: Volodia, a versatile singer who presents his newest oeuvre Pour Toujours ('forever').

To those who know a little bit about the French Reggae scene, the cast of instrumentalists alone should raise high expectations: with Xavier "Kubix" Bègue on guitar, Muctaru Wurie on keyboard, Simon "Saymon" Roger on drums, Boris "Massif B." Arnoud on bass and, most notably, the diligent producer Manjul on percussion (the latter two also joining forces on the production of most pieces), the musical quality is guaranteed. Together, these experts managed to create a well-rounded, organic sound that permeates the 15 tracks and provides the perfect stage for the singer to occupy.

And what a takeover it is! Toute Mon Âme ('all my soul') represents a most beautiful entry to this album, introducing both the unique, multifaceted voice of Volodia (as well as that of backing vocalist Almä Mango) and the different creative sources that water his music: apart from that dominant One Drop, we hear an African Kora (played by Ahmed Fofana) and some elaborate electric guitar. Oh, and the lyrics! The artist tells us that he puts all his heart, his love and his soul in everything he does, since life is short and "the present moments are the memories of tomorrow". His songwriting is graceful, full of metaphors and wisdom (and, of course, French adds a special elegant touch to the whole): "Finalement, il n'y a pas grand chose qui compte, a part de la beauté de ce monde et puis quelques jolies recontres" ('at the end of the day, not many things count but the beauty of this world and some fine encounters').

From this personal inner reflection, Volodia turns to more pressing worldly matters. While Héritage asks which heritage we will leave to our children if we continue exploiting Mother Earth like this, the important issue of ongoing division and discrimination is addressed in Mélanine. On a driving, rootsy beat (that's even dubbed at the end of the song), Volodia invited his compatriot Ismaël Jolé-Ménébhi, better known as Taïro, to the mic to sing about how our differences are used to divide us when, in fact, they are a beautiful thing. "There are a thousand colors on the palette mixed with melanin, a thousand colors that make up one planet, so that our future can be painted."

Speaking of: the features on this release are something wonderful to behold, too. Next to Taïro, we hear the unmistakable voice of Marcus Gad in Riche as well as the Ivorian artist Ramy Raad in Souviens-Toi ('remember'), the two of them contributing the only English lyrics, and the upcoming Twan Tee makes a fine appearance in Tout Donner ('give everything'). From La Reunion, an island that deeply impressed and inspired Volodia when he visited it, he brings to our attention Sika RLion, a young singer that joins him on the bittersweet Je Pars ('I'm leaving').

Completely without bitterness, Pendu À Tes Lèvres celebrates the feeling of being in love, of "hanging on the lips" of your other half. Volodia finds the most emotive words for expressing his feelings, carefully placed on the laid-back riddim that comes with little percussive highlights and a breathtaking guitar solo at the end, making it an instant candidate for replay.  

Equally decelerated, Espère Encore ('hope again') urgently implores us to stay strong and not lose hope, as one day things will be better, a view also expressed in the slightly more up-tempo Rendez-Vous. Again using easily relatable, figurative language, the latter tells us to come together to "lift the mountains" and "paint the grey walls", not waiting for anyone or anything to get started. Motivational anthem! On a more personal level, the title track Pour Toujours tells us something about Volodia's personal drive to do what he does, something that he will continue doing "forever". He continues to explain that he will "take the time it needs" to achieve his goals in Le Temps Qu'il Faudra, a groovy piece that is enhanced brassically by Mathieu Dassieu and Sebastien Farges on saxophone as well as Jacques Stainton on trombone.

After establishing beyond doubt that he is a first-class vocalist that can both ponder spiritual issues and express deep emotions, Volodia shows us yet another, more cheerful side of his artistic being: party time is on in Comme d'Hab ('as usual'), its upful vibe and tempo making it one of my personal favorites. It contains a lot of personal history, a lot of appreciation for the people who accompanied his journey so far, a lot of tangible joy. Furthermore, it's the flow and energy the singer upholds throughout the song that make it so damn good, especially from 1:24, where Volodia unfolds his pure, vocally immaculate MC skills. Impressive!

Finally, special mention deserves the powerful Pour Ou Contre ('pros or cons'). On a crazy mixture of Nyabinghi chant, Rock ballade, Gospel chorale and Dub Poetry, the musicians build a tension that is mirrored in Volodia's passionate lyrics, stringing together opposites like losing and winning, wolf and sheep, optimist and pessimist, shadow and light, Yin and Yang… Relieving us of the tension thus accumulated, a reassuring Reggae beat sets in at the song's climax, and the words "il y a plus des nuances que des extrèmes" ('there are more nuances than extremes') show us that all the differences mentioned can be reconciled. The vividness of the French text is hard to translate, but its effect is immediate, inviting us to explore "the no-man's-land between being for or against" something.

Distances, another reminder that we need to overcome the differences and distances between us, closes on a pensive, but nevertheless positive note, a notion that the whole release transmits. Pour Toujours is an album that comes as a wonderful surprise, a production of top vocal and musical quality (chapeau to Damien Coutrot for mixing and Benjamin Joubert for mastering) that joined the ranks of my 2022 favorites after the first round of listening. Highly recommended. 

Release details

Volodia - Pour Toujours

Volodia - Pour Toujours


Release date: 11/18/2022


01. Tout Mon Âme
02. Héritage
03. Je Pars feat. Sika RLion
04. Pour Toujours
05. Mélanine feat. Taïro
06. Pendu À Tes Lèvres
07. Rendez-Vous
08. Comme D'Hab
09. Pour Ou Contre
10. Riche feat. Marcus Gad
11. Souviens-Toi feat. Ramy Raad
12. Espère Encore
13. Tout Donner feat. Twan Tee
14. Le Temps Qu'Il Faudra
15. Distances

Featured artists

Taïro / Marcus Gad